#2014Academy - First Year Experience Begins

By Camila Rocha (MFA 2015)

Hello Academy Blog readers!  As a first year student, I will be writing to you honestly about my experiences. All the affairs, fate, happiness and lovelessness of my current life, hopefully my view can give you periodically an idea of how overwhelmingly brilliant is to be a Master's of Fine Art student at the New York Academy of Art.

First let me introduce myself, my name is Camila Rocha.  I am from Brazil and before the Academy had a very successful, 13-year-career as an International recognized Tattoo Artist. Following my dream of becoming a fine artist, I came to the USA and right after my undergrad school in Los Angeles I decided to step up for the Master’s Program at the Academy.

On my arrival I was overtaken by love for New York City. As a tattoo artist, I have traveled to many different places but what one can find in this place is definitely something else. The first impression was incredible! I was amused by the art, the personality and the multicultural aspects that enrich the great New Yorker character. At any corner, in the subway, on people’s attitudes, there is a vital energy that stimulates your senses. I've never been in a place that, as you walk, you feel so connected to art everywhere; it’s the perfect atmosphere for an ambitious art student.

Old Masters Gallery at The Met
The search for an apartment is fascinating, chaotic and overwhelming.  Useful tip: if you are a promising candidate student, give yourself at least two weeks prior to your moving date to find something. The students and the Director of Student Affairs (the nice and helpful Elvin), can help you find roommates in case you want to share a space. Remember, don't leave it for the last minute and follow the school's advices to avoid scams, such as never do any money transaction before checking the place in person and read many blogs/online material about the subject. The volume of people arriving and leaving this town is so frenetic, there are many great neighborhoods and you want to visit them personally to choose the one you will feel more comfortable to start your journey as a student.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn art installation
As an international school, such as the Academy, I have met brilliant artists with a variety of backgrounds coming from all over the States and the Globe at the first students meeting. My class was definitely precious to have such a talented group, from freshmen to veterans. Tears came to my eyes while listening to the President of the Academy, David Kratz’s, first speech at orientation. The excitement was all over the place and shared so sublimely for all the students present, by this point I came to the realization that my "big dream", that was so long desired had begun, but if I looked around I could absolve the same feeling coming from all the faces in the room, we were living "the time of our lives." Nothing could make it better after a few days of pretty amusement in this magnificent concrete jungle and then we had the fantastic show of the 2013 Fellows opening, this one I can't describe. Being able to talk to Aleah Chapin's real 'Aunties' in person and get to know the process they went through to create and compose those pieces was priceless. I'm very thankful for being in here!

Please stay with me and I promise to tell you all the greatness of this process, in a very informal and entertaining way!


Camila Rocha (MFA 2015) will be blogging here throughout the year about her first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  Check the label "First Year Experience" or "Camila Rocha" for more posts about her first year at the Academy.  If you have any questions for Camila, please leave them in the comments section of the blog. 

All photographs taken by Camila Rocha.

Meet the Academy Fellows: Nicolas Holiber (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013)

Over a few days in August, we sat down with Nicolas Holiber (MFA 2012, Fellows 2013) to talk a little about his work, the Academy Fellowship, and what he's looking forward to as the Fellowship year concludes.

Nicolas Holiber. Hero (detail), 2013.

Nicolas Holiber: My name is Nicolas Holiber, I am 28 years old and I have an addiction to taking apart my sculptures. I was a Fellow for 2012-13 school year and now gearing up for the Fellowship show this September. 

New York Academy of Art: How are you feeling? 

Holiber: It’s about three and a half weeks until the opening and everything is currently on the floor of my studio, but I guess that feels good.  This is a sculpture in progress [points to "Sarcophaguy"].  I have six other sculptures, rather heads of sculptures on the floor and I took all the bodies apart yesterday because I wasn’t really happy with the way they were built. So I decided to rebuild them and this is the start of the first one.   All of the wood is either found or reclaimed wood. Most of it is just from shipping pallets I find on the street.  There are animal bones and some pieces are painted and drawn on, which happened when the sculpture was in a different form.  All of these are reincarnations of what they were a month ago, which were totally different sculptures.
I met a guy last month and he was telling me there are two types of learning.  One type is to learn through study; when you’re in front of a book.  The other type is to learn through doing.  My process is like the doing.  I have to make something to figure out if I like it or not, or if it works.  Even if I do a preparatory drawing, I still have to make it.  Once I make it I can figure out if I like it or not and if I want to keep it that way.  Most of the time I don’t.  So I have to take it apart and turn it into something else. 

Studio shot courtesy of artist.
Academy: What do you learn from that process? 

Holiber: I guess I learn the form.  I make a decision on what I want the form to be or not to be.  If something is too recognizable, maybe I don’t want that, so I’ll make it simpler.  What happens in that process is I start accumulating all these different dimensions, different aspects of the work: the writing, pieces of the wood get more interesting as they break off, the composition of the form might get a little more dynamic, so it really takes a lot of building and taking part to make something I am happy with. 

Academy: Will you talk about the writing in your work a little bit?  What that is and why it’s there? 

Holiber: Before this guy was like this [point to “Hero”], it was more of a horse and rider sculpture.  There’s a head over there that was the horse and he was the rider.  They had this very rectangular and hollow body.  In fact all these sculptures were hollow and they were very simple box torsos.  The first one I made hollow by accident.  I thought I should do something on the inside, the wood planks are all irregular so you could see the inside if you got close to it. I thought it would be nice if you could discover this whole other world as you approached the sculpture.  So I did that to all the sculptures.  And I painted them all white on the inside and I started drawing and writing in there too.  It became kind of a diary, a visual and written diary. After I had finished doing that, I realized having the diary on the inside was a little too expected.  Of course it would be on the inside of the sculptures because it’s a personal whatever.  I thought the sculptures would be a little more dynamic if they had some of these painted and written pieces integrated into the form and composition of the sculptures, but not so narrative that you can go up to any of them and just read and understand it and where I am.   This way it’s broken up and just gives little pieces and then the viewer can take away what he or she wants to.  It’s also better for me because I am not completely out there.
My friend was telling me last night, she has a family tradition, what did she call it? It was “the Castles of Constraints.” Around Christmas time they make a castle out of boxes and wrapping paper.  Everyone writes down their constraints and confessions and puts them in the castle.  Then on New Year’s Eve they burn it.  That is really, really interesting. It’s kind of similar to this where if it does get covered up, they’re in there and then they’re gone forever.  The writing and the drawings in my work are just a lot of stuff that happened this year.  Things in my life.  Random stuff.  My favorite book when I was growing up or other things that happened this year.  It ranges from very personal to childlike.

Studio shot courtesy of the artist.

Academy: What do you feel when you look at these sculptures and your paintings? 

Holiber: To be honest, when I look at my work I don’t really feel anything.  I am just looking at things I should’ve done better. I want him to come across as hopeless [points to "Hero"].  Keep in mind he’s going to be paired up with a cast from the collection. You’re going to have these casts of immaculate sculptures that are the height of craftsmanship.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why I wanted to use the Academy’s Casts so much and why I’m attracted to Classical sculpture, when I don’t want to make anything like that at all.  I think it’s because when you see real Classical sculptures in real life it’s breathtaking. First of all, you know how old they are.  I know how old they are in terms of years, but it’s hard to really understand their age.  I think the reason I like those sculptures in particular is the effect of time and the brutality of history is so much more evident on sculptures than on paintings or drawings.  There’s a brutality to ancient sculptures that isn’t reflected on paintings, because paintings disappear.  They fall apart, turn to dust, burn or fade away.  You see sculptures with arms chopped off, sphinxes with no noses.  The Belvedere Torso is just a torso now.  It’s that kind of stuff that inspires me most. 

Academy: They are also weathered. 

Holiber: And then you have this guy [looking at "Hero"], who is literally made of discarded manufacturing products, pallets and stuff.  I want him to be a product of the environment and content that he’s this total mess. I don’t want to personify him.  He’s a sculpture.  I want the work to be what it is.  It’s made of discarded wood and paint.  I haven’t even painted his face yet.  I can’t talk about the feeling I get from it.  I think it’s different for somebody that’s just going to see it in the gallery and not having lived with it…a thousand times and put it back together.  I want “Hero” to be simple.  The others will be more elaborate.

Academy: As you work with every screw and piece of wood, what’s going on in your head? 

Holiber: This better not suck.  Often times for a body, I’ll start with a very simple geometric shape.  Rectangle or square and then I’ll start to take it apart or I’ll cut half of it and start doing something that’s irregular.  With this and the other ones, what I’m thinking when I am building this is don’t make anything too regular.  I am trying to layer things and get these weird angles.  I know I want the overall shape to be rectangular and weighty and very statuesque, but I want there to be a lot of dimension in the form. I don’t know if I think the same thing as you where I am trying to devote every decision to one feeling.  I guess I am trying to build it in a way that’s interesting to me.  Usually what’s interesting to me is the irregularity of things.  A lot of it happens just as a byproduct of what ever shape the wood is that I pick up off the floor.  My studio is a mess but it has to be like this because if it was all organized, I wouldn’t be able to find a little chip that has a cool shape.  When this little thing popped out here [points to side of sculpture], I thought “Oh, that’s great, I’ll leave that.” And this shape, how it breaks like that, its stuff like that.  When those things start happening, it gets really exciting for me.
Initially, my idea for the show was to create a little army - to fight the casts. Everyone would have weapons and all my sculptures were going to attack the casts. But instead, I thought if I build them a certain way and really focus on the installation of my sculptures with the casts together, the dialogue is still the same.  The weapons don’t have to be there, it doesn’t have to be that literal. Besides the cast don’t have weapons any more because they are missing or have been broken.  Originally I was going after a warrior kind of sculpture or statue.  I guess I see these guys as warriors, confronting something.  I don’t want to personify them but if I had to they would all recognize they are sculptures and everyone is looking at them, so they have a certain attitude where they are confronting the viewer through their pose or facial expression, they are very confrontational or aggressive. The way I build them is certainly aggressive in terms of technical narrative and emotional narrative, two big topics at school.  I really try to mesh those two. 

Academy: There’s familiarity because they are all materials I know, I have touched, I know what they feel like. But it’s not.  It’s something different, maybe you’re not even trying to get away from aesthetics.  Maybe this is your aesthetic. I like the fact that it’s very distant from any aesthetic that I am used to. 

Holiber: Whenever I see something that looks too figurative, I have to take it apart.  I guess if it’s too expected or it’s something that’s too familiar I don’t like it. Even this is the most simple kind of frontal stance, it still feels new to me.  I remember at the beginning of school I was building this contraposto figure out of wood, just like he is.  And something happened; it was too figurative.  I did his knee really nice.  I was so proud of the knee.  It was all anatomically correct and it was beautiful, I was like this is great!  Then I came in one morning, looked at it, and said, “No, this is not good.”  I had to take it apart.  It wasn’t working.

Academy: Why is that, do you think? It is mere, resistance? 

Holiber: I don’t know if it had to do with just working against the school or what.  Having been taught all these tools to accomplish something like that and then telling myself, “No, I don’t want to do that.”  I am sure it was just me, not wanting to do the things I have been doing and learning for the past few years.  It was also the artists I was looking at this past year.  They are figurative artists, but not necessarily.  They don’t make illusionistic type of work.  It’s very crude. 

Academy: Do you mind sharing whom? 

Holiber: Three artists I looked at the most, this year: Huma Bhabha, Matthew Monahan, Thomas Houseago.  I completely feel in love with their work. They definitely have a brutality that I connect with and I think their work, for me, is the most relevant socially and globally, the most relevant work out there today.  I am not trying to make a political statement.  Being alive today, everything you do is going to be political.  I am just trying to put all my effort into these things and whatever comes out is just me.

Academy: I have heard you talk about the rules you’ve developed in your studio practice.  Tell me more about them. 

Holiber: I started creating rules for myself last year, when I was writing my thesis.  My only rule then was not to work from photos, to take photography completely out of my studio practice.  This past year, I started looking at Matthew Monahan.  I read this amazing interview he has with Maurizio Cattelan.  Monahan was talking about the rules he set for himself.  He had this whole other list of rules.  I realized I needed them, too.  I adopted his rules, omitted some and added others, and came up with a new set of rules for myself that I’ve been following.  I have started thinking about tweaking them some, but so far they’ll stick.
Some of the rules are:
1.     No photography
2.     No live models
3.     No casting
4.     No mold making
5.     No fabricators
6.     No electric saws
7.     No "armatures"
8.     No source material, which is new and still really hard for me.  That’s one of the things I’ve tweaked, because I’ll have a little sketch and put it up on the wall and then start working on something in the vain of that sketch, but then I will end up taking it apart so it changes a lot from the original drawing.  I think it’s ok to work from my own drawings.  That’s the hardest part of making this work.  Basically you’re in a hole with nothing but the materials.  It’s really challenging. Houseago has a similar studio practice.  In a few interviews I read, they talk about the chaos and the planning that goes into a work.  They both, and I agree, think the work ends up being the best when it comes out of a process that isn’t pre-planned and it just happens.  To do that is really challenging and frustrating.  That’s why I like working like this so much because it is such a challenge.  I literally have a pile of wood and some paint.  Takes a lot of trial and error, most of my work is error.
Academy: Is it really error or is that how you work out the planning and sketching?  If you’re not allowing yourself to do the planning and sketching, don’t you have to try it? Just do it and see what happens?   

Holiber: Even if I have a sketch, I’ll make it and then it never looks the way it’s meant to.  It’s never going to look like the sketch; it looks so good in the sketch.  When you’re building it out of whatever material you’re using, there are constraints that the material has that you hadn’t taken into account.  There are building problems you hadn’t taken into account.  There are all these problems you have to solve in order to make it be what you want it to be.  For me, I don’t really know what I want it to be and when I start coming across those problems, I have to decide if this is a problem I am going to try to solve or say “fuck it” and give up on the problem and just take it apart and start a new set of problems for myself.  When you’re working from a photograph or that kind of source material that’s already solved for you there’s not much problem-solving going on and I am not growing artistically, as much as doing this work.  The two types of work are totally different but I am constantly making problems for myself and learning from it, solving problems.  Just copying something I don’t learn as much.  The process of art making isn’t as enjoyable for me.  I am not happy all the time.  I am definitely frustrated and pissed-off, but the process is very important to me. If I don’t feel like I’m really creating omething there is no real point in doing it in the first place.  In a crit with the faculty, Catherine [Catherine Howe, Full-time Faculty] asked me about the process of the work, and I said, “This is process-oriented work in the sense that the work comes out of a certain type process but it's not a comment about the process.  I’m not trying to make a statement on the process, it's just my process.”

Academy: How was that received?

Holiber: She feels the same way about her work.  It’s the way she works that determines what her paintings are going to look like.  I guess now you could say that about everyone, but she has a certain freedom and looseness in the way she is very accepting of what happens on the canvas.  I am a lot like that in my sculptures.  There are accidents that happen in my work, I don’t want to say accidents because it makes it sound like it’s not on purpose. They are more like irregularities.  The way a piece of wood breaks off or using a handsaw instead of a mechanical saw.  There are all these things about my art making that will yield a specific outcome or look. For some angles I will be really controlled in my cut.  For some I’ll use a hatchet.  It’s not about me taking an axe to the wood; it’s about the work revealing itself.  The irregularities are more pleasing to me, than a perfectly rendered smooth thing. 

Academy: What was a favorite art show you saw in and around New York in the last few years? Two or three? Best art experience in New York 2013?

Holiber: Every time I go to The Met, I go through the Greek Gallery and then I go into the Africa Oceania and the Americas section section.  I could live there.  That’s my favorite collection.  There have been shows I liked and definitely pieces in shows I’ve liked but talking about emotion and feeling, when you walk through those galleries, there is no gallery in the city that rivals how those galleries make me feel.  There's an Inuit mask.  It’s a bear mask, it has fur on the outside and it has abalone shell eyes and teeth and it’s just the most beautiful mask you’ve ever seen.  It’s just so cool.  I like that work so much, because it wasn’t just art to them it was so ingrained into their culture and ritual.  I am pretty envious of that.  Imagine if our culture was like that.  What we were doing was like that. 

Academy: It is.  Think about it. The Catholic culture, the Christian culture.  All the imagery of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.

Holiber: But it’s not as awe-inspiring as knowing this object was part of a ritual or ceremony.  Even if I make something now that is totemic and like this, I'm not religious.  We don’t have a culture that is devoted to the same thing.  That’s the romantic idea; I am being super romantic because that’s the way I think about it.

Academy: I agree.  The use of physical objects or visual imagery within the culture like that really changes the way we look at life and the way we look at art.  The western culture is definitely intellectual, monetary culture, hierarchical.  Other cultures from the start focused on nature.  Western is more about abstraction and impurity.
I am curious about your own rituals in your practice.  You have a process that is based on creation and destruction. Are there rituals that go along with that process? 

Holiber: When I think of a ritual, it’s something I do each time I work.  I guess I do.  I mix all my paint a certain way.  I put it on my palette a certain way.  There’s ritual in that.

Academy: Have you noticed that evolve? 

Holiber: I have been painting with the same palette, give or take a few colors, since the beginning of my second year.  I did a lot of palette experimentation my first year.  I got really nerdy and into making my own palettes and mixing my own colors.  I think it should be mandatory at school.  I would say I paint in tints.  I love mixing paint - secondary, tertiary, quaternary colors.  I pay attention to my colors a lot.  I feel like that’s the one thing I really have a strong hold on.  The one thing I am good at.  I have a good sense of color and use of color.  That comes from messing around with different palettes.  Painting I class, I’d have a new palette every week.  Painting II, I would pre-mix a full palette before each assignment. I was one of the only kids doing that and I learned a lot from it.  A lot of artists use a restricted palette – four colors or whatever.  They’ll mix up colors as they go along.  I mix everything on my palette and then apply it; I usually don’t mix on the work. I look at my palette more than I look at what I am working on.  Everyone does it differently.  I have to keep my palette extremely clean and organized. 

Academy: Tell me about your Fellowship year.  What was it like to have an extra year at the Academy? What were the benefits? Did anything unexpected happen?

Holiber: Having another year to concentrate on my work was the most valuable part of the Fellowship.  Having that time, getting paid for it, and just getting to know everyone in the school more.  I was close with a bunch of kids in my class, but when they left I was on my own again. It was cool, but it’s a difficult transition.  You feel like you’re floating because you’re not a student anymore, but you haven’t left the school.  You’re always coming to the school to work.  The first month I didn’t talk to many people.  I am sure there were a lot of people that were thinking “who the hell is that?”  What class is he in?  It takes me a while to get used to new situations.  It took me awhile to feel like I was grounded in the Fellowship.  The first few months, it’s a little weird because you’re in this new role.  It was great because I started to get to know the staff and administration a lot more than when I was a student.  That led to a lot of new friendships.  I slowly got to know more students in the first and second year classes. By the end of the school year, I had a whole new group of friends and it was really great.  Also, the feedback from other students and the faculty was available when I wanted it.  When I wanted to be left alone and out of critiques, I could be.  I wasn’t in class anymore getting weekly critiques.  But when I needed to pull someone into my studio, I could do that too. It’s the best of both worlds. You’re working there in school all the time and you can be a student if you want to be, but at the same time you can check out and be a professional artist if you want to be. The resources are at your disposal.

Academy: It’s a boost.  It’s a good kick in the ass, boost.

Holiber: I wish there was a little more structure.  I don’t love getting critiqued but I feel like it’s necessary.  I wish there was more structure with the fulltime faculty giving us critiques. We had a few throughout the year.  Maybe two a semester would be good.  It’s hard. The school is so small.  The faculty has so much responsibility.  It was easy for me to be on my own for a while, but maybe I needed that.  The only other difficult thing I can think of is you’re in school for another year.  You’re in school, but you’re not.  It’s not the real world yet.  Everyone I graduated with has jobs now, some are working for artists and now I am going through that.  I am a year behind.  It’s not a big deal.  I miss some of those guys.  I haven’t seen them in a while.

Academy: It’s a good place to be, in school.

Holiber: Yeah.  I love some of the people from my class.  It was weird to be on my own and get thrown into it.  But it was good. I can’t complain that’s for sure.

Academy: Was there a good “jiving” going on between you, Jon, and Aleah during your Fellowship year?

Holiber: I think so.  Aleah and I collaborated a little bit and that was a lot of fun.  Aleah and I went to Leipzig together, so we’ve always been talking to each other about our work and helping each other through stuff.  Jon I shared a studio with my first year, so we’ve always been talking as well. Our work, the three of us, is totally, totally different.  It couldn’t have been further from each other.  As far as being a support system, the both of them, I think all three of us were really supportive.  If we ever had a question or wanted to throw some ideas back and forth, we could just go up and pop into the studio.   

Holiber & Chapin collaboration
Academy: How do you see the show coming together?  The three of your works speaking to each other? 

Holiber: In a weird way, I think my work acts as an intermediary between Jon and Aleah’s work.  Especially because Aleah is doing more landscape stuff now, really getting into the environment.  Jon is all about environment.  My work is materials from our physical environment plus the figurative element.  I think it’s going to be great. Jon is doing those constructions too where he has raw wood exposed with different materials.  I think it’s going to work really well together.  Our work is very different but it has a similarity that will mesh well when it’s in a common space.  Usually every fellow has a wall.  I think we’re going to mix it up and put everything everywhere.

Academy: I can’t wait to see it.

Holiber: Me either.  I have to finish this.

Academy: What do you have planned after the Fellows Show? 

Holiber: Going to take a little break.  My plan is to find a new studio and keep working. I work really well under pressure, so having the show and the deadline has been good.  But I am also looking forward to taking more time to experiment with different materials and forms.  I guess playing around a bit more.  I was very pressed for time this summer and didn't have three or four days to sit there and look at something to decide if I liked it or not.  If I didn't  like it, I had to take it apart and make something else right away.  I am looking forward to having more time.  I like the pressure.  It pushes me a little differently than if it’s just me working.  I’m also really looking forward to this new job I got.  I’m going to be working in a metal fabrication studio. We’re fabricating a sculpture for an artist.  Welding is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  I’ve been told when you can weld you can make anything you want.  That’s going to be pretty cool.  When I went for the interview I had to do a welding test.  It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  I was jumping out of my seat.  You basically have a lightning rod in your hand.  It’s incredible.

Academy: Sounds like great things to look forward to.


For more information about the 2013 Fellows Exhibition featuring Jonathan BeerAleah Chapin, and Nicolas Holiber or the Academy's Post-Graduate Fellowship Program visit the New York Academy of Art website - www.nyaa.edu.

This interview was conducted by Elizabeth B. Hobson, CMP and Guno Park (MFA 2011) on behalf of the New York Academy of Art.  Editing and layout was done by Elizabeth B. Hobson, CMP.

Giverny, Giverny, Giverny…you can certainly hold your own: Giverny 2013 Residency, Part 1

By Shannon Kenny (MFA 2013)

August 10th, I arrived in Paris to meet with the Chilean women of the group, Alonsa and Daniela. We succumbed to the forces of the infamous Sennelier Store, almost in tears as we left, not because we were sad, but because we were persuaded by our worse judgment to buy way more supplies than necessary.

Then, as the weekend was over, we boarded a train to Vernon, a neighboring town just outside of Giverny. As we stepped off the train, we were surprised to find that the other Academy students had been riding along in the same train. This was the first inclining as to just how small Giverny was.
As we walked the platform, we were greeted by two lovely women who ran the program at the Terra Foundation. They then took us to Giverny: the town that encompasses Claude Monet’s house, his private gardens, the Impressionist Museum, and an overabundant supply of beauty. Have you ever heard the saying, “when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful”? That’s how some of the residents began to feel. Immersed in Giverny’s encompassing beauty, everything began to mesh together.
Several after-hour trips to Monet’s gardens gave us an insight into Monet’s painting practice. He created his oasis in Giverny, and over the past two weeks, we got to experience a small part of that dream. We even befriended the head gardener, whose responsibility is to maintain what Monet created over a century ago. He even joined in on the painting while Daniela gave him an unofficial private lesson.
It’s funny, going to Giverny, the eight residents felt the historical burden of all the world-renowned paintings that were born there and the numerous painters who have worked there over the decades. Thus, we all felt that we should give plein air painting the good ole’ try. After being immensely frustrated, many of us realized that we didn’t have to paint like Monet because we were in Giverny. What we needed to do was let that environment influence the work that we already did—let it inject itself into the work that is ours and ours alone.
Once that pressure melted from our shoulders, the work began to explode, and with only two weeks, we definitely broke some boundaries within our painting practices. For me, in particular, I felt like I went off the deep end, but in a good way. I would begin paintings from life or sketches done in the garden, and then I would let my imagination take over and empower my hand.
Who knows if what I created is ever going to see the light of day, but my time there helped me to loosen up and really dive into my painting practice. After graduating, and two years at the Academy, you find yourself wondering…what now? I think Giverny gave me a clearer idea as to where I want my work to go, and for that I am ever grateful.
That place is magical; it’s a painter’s oasis, and if you ever have the chance to experience its wonder, don’t let that opportunity slip from your hands.
Giverny allowed us to create art and art alone. It gave us the freedom to do what we love without the worry and burden of everyday life. Its culture, its beauty, and its charm have changed the way we see. I have also left with friendships that are much stronger than when we first stepped off that train.


On August 12, 2013, eight Academy students arrived in Giverny, France, to start a two-week residency hosted by the Terra Foundation forAmerican Art-EuropeJessica Benjamin (MFA 2014), Adam Cross (MFA 2014), Alonsa Guevara (MFA 2014), William Logan (MFA 2014), Shannon Kenny (MFA 2013), Daniela Kovacic Muzio (MFA 2013), Kerry Thompson (MFA 2014), and Stephen Vollo (MFA 2014) will share their experience while in Giverny!

Meet the Academy Fellows: Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013)


Beer's Studio, 2013

One day earlier this summer, we sat down with Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellows 2013) to talk a little about his work, the Academy Fellowship, and what he's looking forward to as the Fellowship year concludes. 

New York Academy of Art: Tell me about where you’re from.

Jon Beer: I am 25 years old. I am from New Orleans, although I was only there two years. I grew up upstate, right outside Albany. Grew up in suburbs but on the edge of development in the woods. We were tucked back behind the rest of the streets with ¼ acre of woods around us. We were outdoors a lot and I think that has a lot to do with my work, at least how my interest developed. I also spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks on a small lake

Academy: You spent summers there?

Beer: And spent winters taught skiing there.  We have little cabin there.  That was a profound visual experience.  A pristine overwhelming visually and spatially overwhelming environment. The lake was in a valley surrounded by mountains. It just took hold in my work. As a kid I was really into comics and up until high school I thought that was what I was going to do – draw comic books, then senior year rolled around and I had to decide if I wanted to do this, cartooning, or illustration, School of Visual Arts (SVA) and I decided illustration and the comic book thing just faded away. 

Academy: So your choice was illustration or cartooning?

Beer: Well, they are the same department. the two are bundled together. I think SVA is one of the few that has that.  They are really the magnet for that sort of thing.  I realized that really wasn’t what I wanted to do.  In high school I had started to really paint.  I realized I was much more vested in images than in stories.  I wasn’t a great storyteller.  I wasn’t a great writer either for a long time, I think.  So, I realized I had this like investment in images in undergrad.

Academy: As a kid you were interested in comic books and what other kinds of things were you interested in?

Beer: All sorts, I guess.  The thing that dominated my life was Legos and I would just build these huge worlds.  I guess it wasn’t about storytelling; it was about creating this whole worlds.  I would make them enormous and I would never take them apart.  I had two desks in my room. They were this long.  They were this interconnected big world.

Academy: Did you buy the sets and put them together according to the plan?

Beer: Yeah, and then I would take them apart and coddle everything together so it just got like crazy and they are still in my parents’ basement.  I was really attached to that process.

Academy: When you were little what did you want to be?

Beer: I think I knew I was going to be an artist.  I was drawing since I was three. There wasn’t really any clear choice for anything else.  At some point when I was little I think I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I didn’t really care about archaeology.  I just liked the idea of it.  The idea of digging shit up, but the idea of having to be precise and have to record stuff was totally awful.  I just wanted to dig stuff up.

Academy: In high school you took all the art classes?  Did your high school have a good art department?

Beer: There were a couple of good art teachers.  The program was kind of like DIY.  We didn’t have AP Art or anything like that.  I did the same studio art class for two years and they just kind of let me do what I wanted.  And that was when I made my first paintings.

Academy: And what kind of painting as a high schooler? Assigned projects?

Beer: When I started to work on my own they became, I got totally sucked into the West Coast Pop-Surrealism, Shepard Fairey thing.  So, they were really like political, or like socially aware, illustration-y paintings and this interest in nature and all that and throughout my life I’ve always read National Geographic.  It was satisfying my archaeology thing without having to go anywhere.  So that was a big part of, I started to get concerned about stuff in the world and the paintings became about that and they began to involve like a kind of graffiti language and at the same time I started to make T-shirts so there was a lot of silk screen and I started to get into design and I worked at a couple of design places.

Academy: How did you get into silkscreen?  Did you work at a silkscreen place?

Beer: No, I did it all in my bathroom.

Academy: Did you sell them?

Beer: Yes, I started a business doing it for four years.  As I started to paint, this design thing grew in parallel with it.  The graphic design on the computer for the T-shirts all of that got wrapped in with the painting in a weird way and they kind of fed off each other for a while.

Academy: I think people think of you as well read and maybe in comparison to others.

Beer: Well, maybe not as much as I’d like to be.

Academy: Have you always been that way? I don’t think every art student in high school is aware of what is going on on the other coast.

Beer: I’ve always been a great reader, but I don’t think I was until my 3rd or 4th year at SVA did I start reading about Art. I only started to read about theory because I knew I was going to grad school and I hadn’t gotten any of that in the illustration department. Yeah, I’d always been interested in a couple of artists. But not until college did I start to dive in.

Academy: Did you have a favorite artist as a high schooler or early college? Who?

Beer: Shepard Fairey, Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto was really big. Now I just kind of avoid all that stuff.

Academy: Why?

Beer: Well, because it kind of it was just really hard to get over. I think every artist in their trajectory has a couple of big humps they have to get over. For me it was the West Coast art and it took a teacher at SVA to tell me that my work looked like taco stand art for me to be done with it.  And he said, “I know this is really going to suck but I am doing you a big favor. I think your stuff looks like taco stand art and I think you should get over it and make something that is yours.” And it was good advice and for six months I was really lost and my ideas about nature and understanding the world.  
I also found a lot of inspiration at that time from National Geographic.  It’s so full of schematics. These cross sections show how the world works.

Academy: What do you mean?

Beer: Well there will be an article about volcanoes and they will have cross sections of it and you see all the layers and I LOVE that. And that was where my ideas really started and what I returned to. It was that kind of aesthetic and it was that connection with my own experiences in nature and my awe with that.  Breaking down the world. Visually breaking it down.

Academy: Why did you go to SVA?

Beer: Because of the comic book illustration thing. I wanted to be in New York.  I had an opportunity to go to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). My dad really wanted me to go there.  It had a better reputation.  I wanted to be in New York and knew it had a better reputation as an art center.  More than Providence.

Academy: Had you been here before?

Beer: On and off, just visiting.

Academy: So, you came to SVA and got that good advice from your professor?

Beer: And I took a lot of Humanities classes.  SVA is really big on that. It’s 30% of your curriculum, of your credits.  I ate it up.  I ended up with a bunch of extra humanities credits.  There was one teacher; I took every class that she offered.  She’s a curator and a writer. Her name is Lynn Gamwell and the first class I took with her was called Exploring the Invisible.  It was the history of science and the history of art in tandem, and that’s the name of the book.  I got that advice from the teacher, I took that class and everything just exploded all at once. And I knew where my direction was going.  Interest in the mind, interest in the landscape and interest in how we create this experience and how the mind creates memory and all of that was filtered through the landscape where I grew up.  It was my memory.  And so, her classes and that advice shot me straight where I needed to go.  And I couldn’t draw fast enough and I started to paint.  That was the second year as an undergrad.
I had also realized that illustration wasn’t for me.  I wasn’t clever enough to be a New York illustrator.  The sense of humor thing wasn’t me.  I’m not pun-y enough. I just couldn’t deliver.

Academy: Talk about how you use the idea of memory. Taking things, images, colors, or things that stick in your head.  Elaborate on what you mean by how your brain creates experiences or how you experience the work.

Beer: When you just look at the world. You look at the inside of this shop. Everything you see you understand that it is three dimensional, right?  But as you look at it and your brain understands it, it’s translated from three dimensions into two.  So there is this special understanding that happens even from a two-dimensional image.  I am interested in reversing that process and creating a spatial experience on something two-dimensional.  In the hope that two-dimensional image can create something experiential.  What’s amazing about how our minds work is that we can be totally conscious and in the present moment.  For example right now we’re having this conversation but at the same time I am remembering all the stuff you’re asking me about and I am visualizing a lot of it.  That is a really strange overlap, between interior visual experience and exterior visual experience.  If you can translate the three-dimensional outside world to a two-dimensional surface why can’t you translate both inner and outer world to a two-dimensional experience.

Academy: You’re paintings attempt to do that inner and outer experiences, incorporating elements of memory? Lots of people have said you appropriate lots of different references, both personal and otherwise.  When you’re making your paintings now, what are some of the references that you’re inspired by? What other things are you appropriating?  How conscious are you of that?

Beer: It’s definitely not unconscious.  If I have a tendency to be anything, it’s self-conscious.  You can ask Wade [Wade Schuman, Faculty].  That was his favorite thing to say.

Academy: Does that annoy you?

Beer: It probably still does but I feel less self-conscious now.

Academy: So he was encouraging you to be more…?

Beer: Intuitive.  I feel like I am getting to that place, of being more intuitive.  Especially as I start to use more materials.  It allows for an easier intuitive process.  For example, if I want to make the sensation of something plastic-y, why not just use plastic?  It took me seven years to figure that out.  But it happened and it’s helping.  As far as sources go, I think this whole journey has been a really broad act of clarifying.  As I started way back trying to understand the world, my world, and my place in it through my memories and my experiences and recreating them on the canvas I started to delve deeper into what my experience is and what my identity is.  I feel like my identity is tied to landscape a lot.  But it’s tied to an American landscape and so that opened up a whole avenue of “what is American-ness?” How do I fit in American-ness? How do I fit into Masculine American-ness? What are the symbols that direct that for this population?

Academy: What made you conscious of that?  Did you leave the country? How did you start to recognize your American-ness?

Beer: It was being in Leipzig.  I have travelled a lot.  But it really didn’t happen until then.  I am half Romanian.  I am first generation American.  My dad came to the states in the 1970s.  That has had a huge impact on my work and the kind of searching, that clarifying act.  The landscape of Romania is very similar to the landscape of the Adirondacks.  Those two conflations of memory, a memory that is not my own and a present experience that is mine that also have melded together.  So my act of recreating that landscape that I didn’t know.

Academy: Have you been back?

Beer: I was born here, but I have been twice.  Then I went to Leipzig and everything, all of a sudden, oh, I am actual very American.  I remember writing while I was there that I realized I was much more American in ways I had never anticipated. 

Academy: How so?

Beer: There is a lot of idealism in America.  The American Dream is still alive.  It’s alive in the personalities of the people here.  That’s a very interesting strange thing.  There’s this optimism, this hope that’s been around from when the pilgrims left England because they were looking for a better place. It’s in the DNA of what it is to be American. That idealism was there.  Again there is this whole other connection point to what the American landscape means and how it has been represented throughout history. Like the Hudson River School, which were big influences of mine.  I became aware of the subtle differences in design and color between Europe and America.  And I became really interested in that again. 

Academy: Can you describe that?

Beer: Eastern Germany is this left over socialist DDR republic.  It’s very East still.  You feel it in the air.  It’s only been 24 years.  When you go on the train in Berlin, the color of the seats and the fabric pattern is red, blue, white, and brown.  It’s slightly dated and it has it’s own charm but it’s subtle.  In America, especially being at school in Tribeca, walking through Chinatown it’s brazen, bright colors, fluorescence, neon.  Where as, you look at something like this where it’s trying to be European, very sensitive Yellow.  There’s tasteful-ness.  What I came to realize, is I love the cheesiness and the unabashed, ideal optimistic palette of America.

Academy: It’s also commercialism and advertising.  We’ve tested this red and know it makes you feel hungry.

Beer: Right.  So America is also about that.  That color says a lot.  I became very interested in that.  In using that color and those kind of formal properties to frame my work.  Abstract painting, non-objective abstract painting from the 1960s and 1970s was all about feelings and communicating a certain kind of energy or state of being.  So color became emotionally directed.  I would say mine is also, but I would also say that I am interested in color being a reference point for talking about a certain time, creating an association. 
For me, it’s important but not important enough for me to be like this is what this is and this is how you need to feel about it.  I hate the word signifier, but it is a signifier.

Academy: I want to backtrack and ask why you went to the Academy and not SVA?

Beer: When I really started to do painting in undergrad at SVA, the paintings were literally big schematic paintings of landscapes coming apart, as if they were made of different layers.  They are the Architecture of the Mind series on my website.  In undergrad, all these things came together. Along the road I had discovered JP Roy [Jean-Pierre Roy MFA 2001, Fellow 2002] and he became a big influence.  He was actually the first studio visit I ever did in New York.  I brought was my then biggest and best painting, it was about 48 inches wide.   I carried it all the way to his studio, it was a panel.  I got it there and was so excited. I brought it in and he said “Ok, just put it over there.”  At the time he was working on a 20-something foot painting.  I put it down next to it and thought well that’s a tiny-ass painting. 

Academy: You did that studio visit before you were a student?  You just contacted him?

Beer: Yes.  My senior year at SVA was when I went to visit him. SVA is split all over the place on 23rd Street and all around.  It’s really hard to have a sense of community when a school is like that.  Part of the reason I came to the Academy was community.  I had gone to some of the lectures before I enrolled.  Sitting in the back, I already felt like I was a student.  Which was incredible.

Academy: How so?

Beer: The discussion was so rich and engaged.  The lecture was part of the Art & Culture Lecture Series, the free lectures the school hosts.  It was great.  It was incredible.  I had never felt that at SVA.  I believe the lecture was by the author of a book about Michelangelo.   I don’t remember who it was.  I had gone to the lecture, felt really connected.  My paintings were pretty tight at that point.  Very articulated.  They were traditional in the sense of building it up and blocking stuff in.  They were very done in a traditional painting process.  I was interested in knowing all about that.  I applied to all the big schools, including Yale and Columbia.  I was accepted to the Academy and the School of Visual Art in Boston.  After visiting, I didn’t like the program in Boston, too much Video art for me.  So I came to the Academy.  I knew New York.  I had gotten to know the community a bit.  I knew JP at that point.
Academy: Why did you want to go to grad school?  Not everyone does.

Beer: It’s actually rare to go straight to grad school.  A lot of people take a year or two off.

Academy: You didn’t want to drift around a bit?

Beer: No, I was excited about my ideas.  I was really working a lot and painting a lot. I wanted to keep this going.  I also knew I wanted to teach, too.  I have known for a long time that I wanted to teach.  I knew I needed my MFA to do that.  So I came here.

Academy: Could you tell me about an influential critique or class you had at the Academy?

Beer: I remember first year.  I was taking JJ’s [John Jacobsmeyer, Faculty] Comp & Design class.

Academy: That’s one of the early classes you take at the Academy, right?

Beer: Yes, you take Comp & Design I first semester of your first year.  I took JJ’s class.  He was great.  We had this big project, end of semester project.  We had to make a large painting based on some of the traditional design principals we had talked about.  The summer before the Academy and up through that semester, my work had become very sparse and very geometric.  Very architectural.  It was the same idea of memories coming apart.  But it had switched from an exterior natural world to an interior one.  Very specific memories of my own.  I started to work with shaped canvases.  Irregular shapes, specific to a drawing. I decided I was going to make this crazy complicated painting with 13 different sides.  It was big, 70 inches long, and a ridiculous shape.  It took me three days to build it.  I was really excited about it and really proud of it.  I brought it into the critique and I went first.

Academy: What style critique was it?  In front of the class? Individual?  You had had a few critiques before this one, correct?

Beer: It was just with our Comp & Design class.  Yes, I had participated in a few crits before.  We have less in illustration. So, I put it up there.  JJ looked at it and I talked about it a little bit.  He said, “I really like your ideas, but you just need to learn how to paint better.”  I was first and that was it, the crit was over.  He went onto the next person.  He’s very even keeled; he just says it how it is.  He was right.

Academy: Was what he said crushing?

Beer: Yes.  But it was very motivating.  I had had a similar experience in undergrad.  But that experience with JJ was always very memorable (laughs).  I had some great crits with Catherine [Catherine Howe, Faculty].  I became very close with her.  I think she always pushed me.  She knew from the beginning how to push my buttons.  She just pushed me and pushed me and pushed me.  I finally got out of that geometric thing and started to paint again.  My second hurdle was Neo Rauch.  The first was west-coast stuff.  The second was Neo Rauch.  Who is Leipzig, Germany based.  He’s the best known out of the Leipzig school.  I was obsessed.

Academy: Was this after you had been to Leipzig?

Beer: No, this was before.  I felt like I had a lot of kinship with him.  With how he painted, with the ways he broke up the space, and broke up the world and allowed memory, history, imagination, reality and fantasy to exist all in one picture.  He just pulls it off like no one else.  It’s really seductive.  He’s incredibly talented and prolific.  Now I am gushing (laughs).  I started to see the world through this “Neo Rauch filter” and Catherine was on my ass about it.  This was a solid year, at least.  I remember one day she said to me in a critique, “You know you’re a responsive painter” and I said, “What do you mean?”  She said, “You respond to stuff. All this stuff, your work, is a response.  You’re responding to the ideas of your history and your past.”  It changed everything.

Academy: Did you feel like that was an insult?

Beer: No, not at all. That was the most eye-opening thing anyone has said to me during my entire time as a painter.  It was that one phrase.  It allowed me to really see how I relate to my own work and how I related to my ideas.  It changed everything.  It gave me permission.  It’s a really important thing.  It’s really hard to give yourself permission.  Permission to let go, to paint big, to paint small, to paint loose.

Academy: How did that give you permission?

Beer: It provided a context for me to see my own work.  To see how I wanted to be involved in my own ideas.  Instead of trying to depict landscape from Romania that I don’t know and simultaneously the interior of a room from my childhood that sounds very formulaic and boring.  But if I am responding to that idea, than I now have permission to change it.  It becomes my response.  I can change the palette.  How do you respond to that feeling or searching?  How is that expressed rather than depicted?  Response was this big word that just opened up.  It was the key to the city.

Academy: When was that?

Beer: That was the end of first year, I think.  Or the end of first semester during my second year.  It was at a pivotal moment.

Academy: How did your work change throughout your time at the Academy?

Beer: So my work started off really tight, as a described in a really traditional process.  And it became much more sparse.  I started to eliminate more and more elements.  I would eliminate the background.  There was a lot of white space and everything became very clean and sharp, which Catherine hated. Eventually as that series ended, I was left scrambling. I started to do these paintings that combine interiors and exteriors, within a traditional rectangular format.  No more crazy shaped canvases.  I tried to throw everything back together with the tools I now had, in more of an expressionistic shorthand that I was picking up.  I started to feel my natural rhythm for how I wanted to paint. It was not tight.  It was loose.  It was more a shorthand for what I was imagining I was perceiving rather than an articulated one.  I wouldn’t necessarily paint…I’m trying to think of an example.  This ceiling is kind of gold and there is some orange.  In the beginning, I would have painted every little piece going back but then I would have painted one big swath of gold and just dot the lights in.  My painting style became a lot looser. Then the Neo Rauch thing happened.  He was such a strong example of what I was trying to do and I just fell right in.

Academy: Tell me about the Fellowship and how that has been.

Beer: It’s been a great opportunity.  I have never been this excited about what I am making and have never felt this free to make it.  The reason the Fellowship has been so great is really because of Leipzig.  The fact that I got over this Neo Rauch thing second year, finally felt comfortable and had my own direction.  I had made the biggest painting I had ever made and I left New York that summer with the show booked in September.  I was going to Leipzig.  I was going to confront all these ghosts that I thought I was over.  I was going into the belly of the beast.  I left New York essentially without a history.  I didn’t take anything with me.  I got there and started fresh.  I had never felt that panicked before about having to actually recall what I was interested in making paintings about.

Academy: Why did you feel that way?

Beer: Because I was in a new setting.  I had to set up a studio somewhere else.  This was my first time with a big studio. The first time having a show.  The first time I was really feeling like I was starting my real art life and able to make what I wanted.  It was a really great editing process.  All the baggage and self-consciousness that I had here, felt like it was gone.  That which happens in grad school with so many voices giving feedback and around you.  I was able to really meditate on what I was interested in and what my ideas were.  The erroneous stuff just disappeared.   That was great.  It was amazing.  I never expected that. I actually had no idea what to expect with a residency, but it was unbelievable and magical.

Academy: When you came back and started the Fellowship did you continue the trajectory you had started on your residency?

Beer: I think so.  All the paintings I did for the show in September were large.  I finally felt comfortable working on a large scale and I knew that was part of what I wanted to do this year.  I had really found a way to take apart the world that was the world that I experienced in the present and the world I remember as my own memories and a past that I had learned that was not my own.  The American Identity thing came in at the moment.  My focus on identity shifted to my American Identity and to understanding how American Identity for the nation was formed through exploration, through painting and how it was represented and things like the World’s Fair became really involved in my work.  Symbols for America came into my work.  I began to take apart the American flag, the colors, American Iconography and American advertising.  Everything I have been really involved in throughout my whole life but never had the perspective to see.  That gift is really been amazing.  I don’t know if that would have really happened had I not been able to step away through the experiences I was given.  The Charlie Brown thing happened in Leipzig.

Academy: What’s the Charlie Brown thing?

Beer: Ah, I guess the Charlie Brown thing was probably pretty pivotal.  I was doing all these paintings at the end of second year that had chevrons in them.  One day I was drawing them and instead of making them all go the same direction, I made one go the other way and then connected it again.  I realized it was the design on Charlie Brown’s shirt.  So I put it into a painting.  That symbol opened up this design iconography into a painting language.  Why can’t it be a serious formal element in a non-abstract painting?  But it’s just Charlie Brown.  With that I found a way to co-opt a design language that I have been trained to do well but I also appreciate.  I also experience those design elements in the world every day.  Doing that allowed me to find a bit of a sense of humor in my work.  Which was really an important thing for me, which I hadn’t recognized yet.  What I couldn’t do in writing I finally found a way to do it in painting.  It was really satisfying to get a taste of that in my work.  It was humor through paradox.  I began to see all these paradoxes in American culture.    

Academy: As an artist, do you find yourself naturally observing?

Beer: Yes.  I am always looking.  A real nugget like is more rare.  But I definitely look for those.  I also keep a running list of titles.

Academy: You get your titles from what you see? Are titles important to you?

Beer: Yes, I do.  Titles are really important.  One of the paintings in the Fellows show called “Castle Bravo.”  It’s named after a nuclear test during one of the American operations during the Cold War.  I was watching this documentary about World War II and post WWII because I think that time period is a really interesting time in America.  A lot of crystallization of America happened then.  Our generation has inherited America in that way.  I find that really interesting and the historical footage is tremendously interesting.  I was watching it and they showed footage of cleaning up this bombsite.  There were these huge strapping GIs riding around on tanks without shirts on in the tropics.  The tanks are all covered in this yellow and red chevron tarp, as if that’s going to protect them from the biggest nuclear bomb to ever be detonated.  There’s so much ridiculousness layered in this history.  I wanted to capture that moment, that innocence and earnestness that is so important to America.  Suspension of belief is really important

Academy: What do you mean "suspension of belief"?

Beer: The American Dream.  People came and just died by they troves believing they were going to find a city of gold, the Northwest Passage.

Academy: You mean believing despite evidence to the contrary?

Beer: Yes. Which is paradoxical. It’s kind of crazy and kind of amazing.  I am really drawn to the way America exudes that from its pores.  It’s just there.  I like finding those moments.  So “Castle Bravo” was that.  Titles are really important to me.  A lot of time I have them written down and don’t know where they’re going.  I don’t know which works they’ll attach themselves to.

Academy: You don’t have figures in your work.  How was the figurative education from the Academy influential?

Beer:  There’s a great tradition of learning all of that.  For one, you can’t get it anywhere else. For someone, like me, who is after knowledge and interested in teaching those skills are really important.  I think it’s an important foundation to have, to be able to visualize and dissect your world in three-dimensions.  It’s a difficult skill to learn, but really being able to focus and hone that skill has been really important.  I start teaching at Montclair University this fall, teaching Painting I.  I’ll be able to communicate those skills better and help other artists, to show them what they can do.  Most people have the ability to deconstruct and construct, they just have to learn that they have it.  

Academy: Tell me about Art Rated.

Beer: When I left SVA, I realized one of the things I wanted from grad school was more critical dialogue.  I love crits.  I know some people hate them and hate talking about their work, but getting into it and taking it all apart.  There is nothing more satisfying to me.  I really enjoy it.  I’ve always really enjoyed having those conversations.  My first year I realized I always wrote down what I thought about shows I had seen. I started writing more formally about shows that spoke to me, like the Richard Serra Drawing Show.  Growing up I was not a good writer, my sister was the better writer.  I finally found what I wanted to write about, it wasn’t stories.  It was critical dialogue.  Lily Olive [http://lilykoto.com/] and I became friends here.  We started visiting people’s studios and doing photos and things for the blog here.  We realized we should start our own.  We came up with the title at our first studio visit.

Academy: Who else do write for?

Beer: The Brooklyn Rail.  I’ve done a few pieces for the Huffington Post.

Academy: How did you get those?

Beer: I was writing for ArtWrit.  And they knew the Huffington Post.  It was last summer, a piece I wrote about dOCUMENTA (13) for ArtWrit and then Huffington Post picked it up.  I’ve also written for Art Observed.  I am going to be writing for the Brooklyn Rail again and a blog called Dirty Laundry and some other big things coming up.  I love interviews.  I’ve done some essays and long form writing, but I really love doing interviews.  To get at where someone is coming from and what their work is about, there’s nothing like it.  It’s a conversation and makes their work much more accessible.  I’ve totally fallen in love with it.  I do a studio visit a week. 

Academy: Are artists willing do them?

Beer: Mostly.  It can be really hard to be an artist in New York.  Even if you have a network, it’s really spread out. Having the chance to meet new people regularly and feel connected to them is great.  It makes struggling in New York as an emerging artist all the more worth it and enjoyable.  It reaffirms why you do this.  I keep a running list on my phone of people I want to meet and visit with.  I aim really high.  I ask everyone, I don’t always get them, but it helps for the future asks.

Academy: Do you want to stick around New York?

Beer: For sure.

Academy: What do you have coming up next?

Beer: I have a few shows this fall.  After the Fellows show opens, I have a show at the Lawrence Gallery at Rosemont College.  It’s a solo show, but with three people at once.  It’s called Landscape Revisited.  It’s some of my early work from SVA.  It’s been shown a few times already, but it will travel around a bit more.  In October, I have a solo show in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  In January, there’s a show at a museum in Miami, at an art and design center there.

Academy: How do you get shows?

Beer: Through proposals.  You have to know how to write.  The trick is following up.  I’ve worked with someone who helps me with that.  I’ve been really lucky to have an agent who helps me make connections and follow-up with them.  It’s important to participate in the art world.  Go to openings, write, and be introduced.  That’s how I got my next show.
For more information about the 2013 Fellows Exhibition featuring Jonathan BeerAleah Chapin, and Nicolas Holiber or the Academy's Post-Graduate Fellowship Program visit the New York Academy of Art website - www.nyaa.edu.

This interview was conducted by Maggie Mead on behalf of the New York Academy of Art.  Editing and layout was done by Elizabeth B. Hobson, CMP.